Top 10 Ways to Make a Living As a Musician

by Hope Wilk

One common myth about being a working musician is that it’s difficult to find work. Whether it be applying for a grant or planning their own tour, musicians can create their own work with just a little preparation. That’s why I wanted to shed light on the 10 most common ways that musicians can find income with their skills.

1. Teaching

Whether it be through creating your own private studio, or teaching music lessons at schools (check your state legislature about the qualifications!), teaching can be a great way to get income and also enrich your own studies.

2. Busking

Being a street performer is not necessarily an ideal condition for any instrument to be in, but it does put the musician in the perfect spot for getting their name out there and while also (hopefully) making some cash and having fun.

3. Weddings/Private events gigs

Being hired entertainment is a great way to make good money in one job. Some musicians make the majority of their income through this type of work. A great way to get involved in this type of work is attending a local Bridal Show as a vendor, although it’s not completely necessary to get started.

4. Grants/Crowdfunding

If you have a project or a tour planned, but need funding to make it happen, then you should consider seeking donations through grants or websites like GoFundMe. The key to success on this is to choose a project that really motivates you and then writing a great project proposal that will motivate others to donate.

5. Arts administration

Is a great way to combine what you’ve learned in school with the practical skills that you will learn while working in an office. These jobs are great experience for future projects, like being an administrator/director of your own ensemble.

6. Church

Most churches will have a music director that you can contact about any potential performance opportunities.

7. Solo and chamber performances

Performing is what we spend all of our time practicing to do, so it makes sense to get paid for it once in a while. A great way to get started is by creating a press kit that you can send to concert promoters.

8. Musical transcriptions and arrangements

There are copyright laws to be mindful of, but arranging pre-existing music and selling the sheet music is both good supplementary income and a fun way to learn about your instrument.

9. Orchestral salary or performance

Performing in an orchestra is a great way to establish yourself, and connect within a musical community.

10. Restaurant/hotel musician gig

I’ve seen numerous musicians create good professional relationships with establishments like hotels and begin performing in their dining halls for their guests many nights of the week.

Bear in mind that this list is incomplete, and doesn’t include things that are specific to certain roles within our community (i.e. composers receiving a commission, or specialists like piano tuners), which should serve as more inspiration to find the roles that you’d like fill in your musical community.

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